The last frontier



Stop attacking the Prime Minister; he’s got a choice too

Before you abuse me let me just get it out, I voted for the current flag. While I wasn’t anti change, I needed a reason for the change and I felt that perhaps now was not the right time, and I didn’t feel a connection with the new alternative (especially didn’t quite think the beautiful colour black suited a flag).

In saying that, I am fed up of people abusing the Prime Minister, threatening him and calling the proposed flag “John Key’s flag”. If one were to have an opposing point of view, then do so with respect and have a logical debate.  While everyone is entitled to an opinion, all opinions don’t always become fact. Fact is that the Flag Change debate was started by many prior governments, including the Labour Government.

For those that sing the John Key wasted money mourn, while the suggested amount may seem like a lot of money, in the context of a bigger picture and putting it in perspective of the annual Government expenditure it is minuscule. Finding our true identity is priceless and we cannot put a price on it. To ascertain our identity, it was essential to have a debate and this flag debate has done just that. It has brought to light the passion people have for the country and this is something we cannot put a price on it.

AMERICAN FLAGThere may be many things about America that does not sit right with me, but one thing we can learn from our American brothers and sisters is their patriotism. One only needs to drive around America to see their flag hoisted from schools, homes and other buildings with pride and people actually sing their national anthem regularly.

So I say to you, instead of being negative and throwing stones and abusing the Prime Minister, take pride in the flag, fly her high outside your home and take positive pride in this beautiful land we all call home. This way if or when the time comes for us tnzflag flagpoleo change our flag, we will do so with unity and purpose.


A new look at teenage boredom


In early February this year (2016), media articles and social media sites were flooded with differing views on who’s to blame for the deaths of two teenagers in #Masterton following a police chase. Amongst the varied views, a few opinions that jumped out at me came from those that blamed the police, parents and the community.

Let’s first consider the views of those that blamed the police for the crash. I’d be interested to know what the alternative was? Aside from the fact that the police had stopped their chase prior to the crash, what would have happened if the police had ignored the obviously speeding car and these lads had crashed into an innocent driver on the way to work for an early morning shift? Had the innocent driver been my loved one – father, mother, uncle, aunty, cousin, son, daughter, husband, wife – I certainly would have blamed the police for not stopping these lads when they had the opportunity.

Then there is a core group of social media commentators who have strong views on why they think the parents are to blame. While sometimes that is the case, it will be unfair to speculate and throw hurtful words at the parents, without knowing the facts. Unfortunately we seem to have created a culture where the rights of normal parents to discipline their kids and teenagers seems to have been taken away at the expense of a minority of child beaters and abusers. This sadly means that many parents are “threatened” by their unruly teens that they would call the police and make a complaint if the parent tries to discipline their child. For instance, I know of a normal regular kiwi parent who had a phone call from the school that their teenager had not turned up to school. As a responsible parent, this person had driven around town, found the teenager, held their arm and asked them to get in the car. Another teenager made a complaint to the police that this responsible kiwi parent was abusing their child which led to the police knocking on their door. This parent felt that they had lost their right to even discipline their child. What then is the solution to “disciplining” unruly teenagers?

The third group of commentators felt that it was the community’s fault. Well intentioned social worker Alan Maxwell was “angry” that “these kids have such limited choices and the community is so apathetic to it all.” He went on to say that that they were just “bored” and that if “we” don’t give them things to do they make “stupid choices.” In my view, however well-intentioned and passionate his point of view is, this only instills a kind of quiet arrogance amongst teenagers that they can get away with anything.  I remember once observing a friend who politely spoke to an unruly teenager who was dumping rubbish at a private building and dirtying the walls. A person who called themselves the “elder” suggested to my friend that we had no right to speak harshly or “put down” a young person because that would “hurt” them. !!!!!!!

Kids and teenagers need to be loved, protected and feel secure. However, this is not achieved by providing them freedom without boundaries. Mr Maxwell says that “At some point, as a community, we have to take responsibility, otherwise these kids are not going to be the only ones [to die] this year.”  In a way Mr Maxwell is right. As a community member I do think we need to take responsibility.

We need to take responsibility and change the airy fairy way society is asked to handle teenagers. Let’s work toward creating strong, free, honest, ethical and responsible teens. This means that we are allowed to tell them firmly where their boundaries lie and enforce the boundaries; direct them to the amazing opportunities available to them and encourage them to put their minds to use so they don’t get “bored”; teaching them that stealing (cars or anything else) is not the right thing to do; advising them that the choices they make as teenagers can have a lifelong impact not just on them but their families too.

Let’s get responsible by giving back responsible parents the right to discipline their children in a safe manner. Let’s give them the right to give their teenagers a strict curfew time. Let’s give them the right to make them get their teenagers into the car if they are out past their curfew time. Let’s give parents the right to say No to their teenagers.

Let’s get responsible by not making excuses that the teens were “bored” but point them to the abundant boredom tackling opportunities available in New Zealand’s door step. Let’s train youth workers to teach teens that they can indeed go for a walk, swim in the river, climb trees or go for a push bike ride (things we did when we were kids and when no one needed to keep us from getting “bored”). Perhaps then come 10 pm tiredness will set in and the only place a teenager will want to go to is to bed.

This entire saga is sad in so many ways. Naughty though they may have been, it’s devastating when young people go before their time. I am not suggesting that we become so strict that we create robotic kids that are “perfect”. We have all made mistakes as teenagers but for most of us the kinds of things kids these days think they have the right to get up-to was not tolerated by society. Life had more boundaries. These boundaries kept us safe.

Perhaps, contrary to what Hollywood portrays, teenagers are not “mini–adults” and we need to become more “responsible” and create more boundaries to keep these teenagers safe until they become mature. This way they can have a lifetime of adventure without having their life snuffed out in their prime because of a life lived without boundaries.

Let’s find that middle ground where teenagers can create positive fun filled child-hood memories and live to tell the tale.


TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK – You don’t need to agree with me but happy to encourage positive, healthy, non-abusive debate.

(Sneha Gray is a writer and dream catcher who currently lives in the Sunny Bay of Plenty)


So pleased to have won a toastmasters competition

… and it wasn’t just the unexpected winning that excites me about Toastmasters…Its the fact that attending #toastmasters has opened up my mind to understanding how different people think about the same topic…It has given me more discipline & commitment to complete a task…More importantly, it has helped me meet and get to know many wonderful people.

Why not join us today…Find details on how to in the bottom of this media release…

 Media contact: Andrea Boyed or visit our facebook page


 Area D1 Toastmasters Public Speaking competition a resounding success

Area D1 Toastmasters Clubs (Whakatane, Kawerau as well as two Gisborne clubs) were pleased at the good turnout at our Area Toastmasters speech competition held in Whakatane on Saturday 12th March 2016.
The event had a range of experienced speakers including Mr John Turner and Mr Peter Trevor who wowed the audiences with their respective speeches and evaluations.
A relatively new Toastmaster, Sneha Gray from the Kawerau Club, stunned the audience and other competitors with an excellent speech and a very thorough evaluation. She won both the International Speech and the Evaluation Contests. “There were times I thought I could never speak eloquently in public. My fellow experienced club members have shown me that anyone can speak well with a bit of motivation and support. I encourage anyone wanting to become more successful to join Toastmasters. You won’t regret it.” Said Mrs Gray.
The Chief Judge was Whakatane’s very own Dr John Twaddle.  Ms Susan Smith and Mrs Alison Baker were the other judges.
Speaking at the event, Area D1 Director, Mr Wil Blakeway said, “I am very impressed with the quality of the Speeches and Evaluations at today’s Area Contest, they were of an extremely high standard and Sneha is a very worthy winner of both contests and I am certain that she will do Area D1 proud when she represents the Area at the Division Competitions to be held in Rotorua on the 10th April”.


“Toastmasters is an organization that encourages and teaches people to grow in the art of public speaking and not only gives you the opportunity to speak but also to learn other skills including leadership skills i.e. Chairing the meeting for the evening, evaluating speeches using the CRC (Commend-Recommend -Commend) method etc. Speeches have specific objectives to be met that are laid down by Toastmasters International. There are other wonderful by-products as well, personal and unique to each person, besides the making of good quality friendships with people of all walks of life” he said.
Please visit our Facebook Page for more details.


Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational organization that teaches communication and leadership skills through a worldwide network of more than 14,650 clubs in 126 countries.


Toastmasters Kawerau meets regularly every fortnight on a Monday night at 6.55 pm at the Catholic Church Hall on Onslow Street;

Toastmasters Whakatane meets at 7pm every fortnight on a Monday at “St George & St John” – Anglican/Methodist Church, 30 Domain Road, Whakatane,

About Toastmasters International

Toastmasters International is a worldwide nonprofit educational organization that empowers individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders. Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., the organization’s membership exceeds 332,000 in more than 15,400 clubs in 135 countries. Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people from diverse backgrounds become more confident speakers, communicators and leaders. For information about local Toastmasters clubs, please visit Follow @Toastmasters on Twitter.


The child with two home-lands: The flag debate from an immigrant’s perspective


My mind’s been working over-time over where I stand in the flag debate? As a foreign born New Zealand citizen who faithfully took an oath to observe the laws of New Zealand and fulfil my duties as a New Zealand citizen, I decided that it was my duty to seriously consider the flag under which not just me but my descendants will hopefully make a positive difference in this world.

While I do love our current flag, I love the silver fern. If I were to choose a new design, it is my view that Kyle Lockwood’s red triangle with silver design could in future have helped us look back and remember the founding of the Treaty of Waitangi and our Commonwealth connection. To me the red represented both the British and Maori forebearers and the life-giving blood that flows through every New Zealander regardless of what country they originate from; the multiple points of the fern leaf of course representing multicultural society, a single fern spreading upwards represents that we are all one people growing onward into the future.

The black triangle of the same flag brings to mind unfortunate pictures of pirate ships and the ISIS militant group. No matter how hard I want to I don’t feel the colours work well together for a flag. But the democracy has voted and perhaps I will grow to love it, should the flag be chosen.

To have an open mind, I have tossed and turned, researched various viewpoints before coming up with a considered decision. Trolling through several writings and opinions in the media, the battle of the flags (existing or new) is fought on two fronts. Those that do not support a flag change say that the existing flag has meaning and history. Writers like Bruce Logan put this case forward well and explain that the Union Jack in the top left-hand corner recalls our historical and legal origin. It reinforces the meaning of the Treaty of Waitangi. The Southern Cross tells us where we are.

On the other side of the spectrum are those that believe that now is the time for change and as a stronger, newer and more vibrant nation we need to move forward. We are no longer under the roof of Mother England, they say.

Both points of view have their pros and cons; both sides of the argument moving me from one side to the next.

We all know that change for the sake of change is not of use to anyone. Research shows that countries that have changed their flags had a reason to do so. Canada changed her flag at a time of turmoil and threat to unify her nation. India (my birth land) changed her flag to symbolize that she was free of the tyranny and the control of the then British Government.

Unlike Canada, we are not under internal threat; unlike India, Britain is no longer the strong, arrogant and stubborn power she once was. However, if a majority of New Zealanders want to change the flag, then we should get on and move forward.  But let’s do it with a purpose that is stronger than “Because our flag is too similar to Australia” (Why then can’t Australia not change her flag), or “Because we are not under Britain anymore” (Technically we are, should we therefore become a republic first, and is there any benefit for us in doing so at this point in time), or “the All-Blacks represent the Black colour and the fern, and so our flag should change.”

If the current alternate design is the flag that we choose, let’s come up with, and explain to our children the true meaning of the fern and the Southern Cross.

One of the clearest messages of the meaning of a flag, or the need for a flag that represents a land, came from Mahatma Gandhi, a true hero and a peaceful warrior who took on and defeated Mother England.  When India was going through a flag debate he said this: “A flag is a necessity for all nations. Millions have died for it. It is no doubt a kind of idolatry which would be a sin to destroy. For, a flag represents an Ideal: The unfurling of the Union Jack evokes in the English breast sentiments whose strength it is difficult to measure. The Stars and Stripes mean a world to the Americans. The Star and the Crescent will call forth the best bravery in Islam…It will be necessary for us Indians –  Muslims, Christians Jews, Parsis, and all others to whom India is their home-to recognize a common flag to live and to die for.”

Change for the sake of change is not of use to anyone. If we were to change, I say to you New Zealanders, young and old, immigrants or not, black brown or white, religious or non-religious, gay or straight, and to all others to whom New Zealand is or will be their home and the home of their children, let’s recognize a common flag that’s not just a marketing logo, but a flag that will instill in us a sense of positive pride, integrity and strength of character, a flag that we will be proud to live and die for.


(Sneha Gray is a writer, former journalist and dream catcher based in the sunny Bay of Plenty)